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Jill Pelto

Jill primarily works in watercolor with details done in acrylic and colored pencil. She started at RWS this October. Jill views herself as a climate change artist and much of her artwork stems from her interdisciplinary background in earth and climate science (MS ‘18, University of Maine) and studio art (BA '15, University of Maine). Her work incorporates scientific data and information as a way to show people a graph of change over time, but allows them to see that graph in a different context--hopefully in a more understandable context and one that evokes more emotion--to give people a better understanding of what these topics mean in relation to their own lives. For example, these paintings help people visualize sea level rise and understand what’s already happened and what’s predicted to happen by 2100. Jill aims to help people see data and to communicate these complex topics in ways that will reach a broader audience than the sciences sometimes can. She is inspired by the young women activists who are demanding and participating in demanding action in the environmental sciences right now and their different approaches to this topic. “I have been conscious of information and data that’s positive as well to show people hopeful changes because I think it’s important to visualize action.” Our collective actions really do have the power to make positive change. Getting outside is an important part of Jill’s routine, even if it’s a quick run from the studio to around Back Cove. Throughout the year she has other opportunities to get outside for longer periods of time. She does some science field work with her dad who’s a glaciologist in Washington State. When she’s able to get outside for a few weeks at a time like this she collects the visual and emotional inspiration that comes through in her artwork. Making art is the way Jill thinks and how she shows people what she cares about. She’s always wanted to communicate to herself and to others in a creative way and therefore has always created. She realized early on in high school that she wanted to pursue a career in science communications and she didn’t know what that would look like but was confident it was an achievable goal.

Over the past couple of years Jill has been working with schools in Maine and virtually throughout the country to talk to students about what she does and give them some perspective about working in science or science communication. She has created an activity where students make their own data art, which gives them a voice and the chance to make their own art in an interdisciplinary way to help them better understand these topics. Last spring she worked with Yarmouth middle school students where every student in the grade made their own data art on a topic of their choice. Her long-term goal is to work as a full-time artist and science communicator (she currently works part-time at a coffee shop in Biddeford) and figure out more connections between her art and people. “Working with students is a great start to that and to other directions. I like collaborating directly with natural science teams. I’m part of their research creating art for them, the goal of that being to help share that with more people. People don’t see that work often.” She’d also like to work with conservation groups and nonprofits to communicate peoples actions as well. She has a lot left she’d like to do with this direction of work. Two new and two existing pieces of Jill’s work will be included in a group exhibition called Climate Action: Inspiring Change at the Peabody Essex Museum in April of 2022. To learn more about the work that Jill does or to reach out to the artist, go to her website, or Instagram (@jillpelto).


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